If Disney were to design a cave attraction, he couldn’t do any better than Carlsbad Cavern, for deep within the Guadalupe Mountains of southeast New Mexico lies an enchanted forest of mysterious-looking limestone formations.long ears (2)

The journey begins at the ticket counter, where for the price of admission, a visitor can access the cave from a nearby switchback path, or take a high speed elevator 800 feet down to an exploration crossroads that leads directly to a food concession stand.elevatorWhile there are a few adventure hikes below the surface for limited numbers of ardent spelunkers, a majority of the nearly 3,000 visitors a day (on average) are content to follow a one-mile self-guided tour of the Big Room along a narrowly paved walkway, where featured formations are illuminated by hidden spotlights and protected from access by stainless steel handrails.

To the casual observer, the speleothems (e.g. stalactites and stalagmites) look like random thousand-year-old mineral deposits. But to the trained eye, many of the formations–whether disguised within wall recesses…facesGroot

or standing straight and tall in plain sight–Chinese emperor (2)

double as custodial creatures who stand guard by rock castles,castle on the rockbrocoli

and towers…double dicks (2)to protect them against invaders who are so fascinated by their structural beauty, that they must scale their delicate walls.

Like vintage Disney design, the spectacle that is Carlsbad Cavern is overwhelming to the senses. Whether it’s looking up at the lion tails,

lion tail (2)

and the crystal chandelier… chandelier

or looking at popcorn streams beneath rippled water…natural stream (2).jpg

…it’s difficult to imagine not being seduced…shaft (2)

by all the stunning eye candy.eye candy (2)

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